Pakistan Air Force (PAF) held an "operational exercise" in its Skardu base using JF-17 jets days before India is scheduled to welcome its most advanced fighters, the Dassault Rafale aircraft.
Significantly, Skardu air base in Gilgit-Baltistan, an area which India claims is part of the undivided Kashmir.
The exercise held on July 24 involved several operational activities including rapid deployment of fighter aircraft and combat support elements, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) wing said in a statement.
Speaking on the occasion, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan said, “the aggressive military procurements by the enemy are not going unnoticed and necessary measures are in place to ensure the balance of military power in conventional domain as well.”
The statement is significant as Pakistan claims parity with India in terms of nuclear weapons but is left behind in conventional military power.
Regarding air power, India's combination of Rafale, Su-30 and MiG-29 jets, besides early warning aircraft and combat helicopters like AH-64 Apache have a huge edge over the PAF which relies on decade old F-16s and locally-assembled JF-17s.
In June, Pakistan announced its annual budget 2020-21 revealing its plan to spend PKR 1,289 billion in the defense sector. This is a 11.9% increase when compared to the same last fiscal year. The figure does not include PKR 369 billion allocated for pensions of retired military personnel and PKR 324 billion for the armed forces development programme.
Islamabad has ramped up JF-17 production along with China. PAF plans to replace all F-7Ps and Mirage III/5 aircraft with JF-17 jets by the end of this year. It ultimately wants to buy over 200 JF-17s. PAF will receive four Wing Loong II (GJ-2) combat drones from China. The drone will reportedly come armed with 12 air-to-surface missiles.
In April several media reports said that China’s NORINCO will begin new VT4 main battle tanks to Pakistan. The company is said to have inked a deal for the supply of over 230 SH-15 155mm self-propelled howitzers last November.
Turkey’s ASELSAN won a $195.7 million from ASFAT Military Factory and Shipyard Operation to supply certain sub-systems for Pakistan’s MILGEM Frigates program in the same month, under which it is buying four Ada-class warships for $1.5 billion. Deliveries will be made in 2022-2023.